Here I am, about six months into Nissan Pao ownership, I’m delighted to say that my ardor has yet to cool. I’m still thrilled every time I get into this thing to drive, and I’m pretty convinced that if there was a satellite that could track trails and wakes of atomic joy particles in the atmosphere, it would produce an accurate map of everywhere I’ve been. I’ve learned some more about life with a Pao, so gather ‘round.
Just so you get a sense of how I’ve been using the car, even though I work at home, a pantsless, unshowered troglodyte, for pretty much every errand that takes me from my house into the world beyond walking distance I’ve been taking the Pao.
I feel bad for neglecting my Beetle, a bit. (Don’t worry too much—I still make sure to take it out, and it was just on TV with me.) It’s mostly since I anthropomorphize everything and sometimes find myself apologizing to spoons or toilets for the way I’ve debased them, but I can’t help it.
Driving the Pao is just so damn easy and fun. I’ve been taking my kid to school in it, getting groceries, going to meetings, short roadtrips to neighboring cities, driving it pretty much every day, for any reason. Here’s what’s been revealed to me:
The A/C button could be re-labeled as a “Power Subtractor” button and still be accurate
So, it’s getting hot here, which means that when I drive people other than myself who are not used to ancient driving un-air-conditioned shitboxes, I’m sort of expected to make the air in the car less hot.
In pretty much every other car I’ve owned, this meant rolling down windows and apologizing lamely for the fact that the Earth’s axis is now tilting us toward the sun. But now, in the Pao, I have an option: air-conditioning. Decadent, unholy air-conditioning, injecting a wintry blast of chill into the cabin of the car, via some of the blackest magic known to man.
Actually, that black magic involves an A/C compressor, and when I hit the little button to engage mine on the Pao, holy shit can you feel it. Really, you feel it two ways: the good way, in that the A/C works pretty well, and the air blasts out nice and cold, and the bad way, in that the engine’s already meager stable of 52 horses feels like half those horses just vomited and collapsed.
I’m not really surprised; a carbureted 987cc is not a lot of engine to drive an air conditioner. When it’s on, the engine idles much rougher, and acceleration definitely suffers. When I’m alone, I don’t like to use it, because I don’t believe my comfort is worth that level of engine strain. When my wife is in the car, I’ll put it on for her, and just try and hide my nebbishy cringing when I feel the engine labor.
I’m glad I have A/C as an option to make my car fetishes more acceptable to those people in my life, but I think I’ll be using it as little as possible.
I can actually find some parts at my local auto parts store!
This was a very exciting revelation. After years of trying to maintain my Reliant Scimitar, I sort of lost hope that getting parts for any weird, non-U.S.-market car would be easy. If I wanted pretty much anything for the Scimitar, I always felt like I had to reach out to a friend of a friend’s vicar’s cousin’s roomate’s ex-uncle who may have an extra overdrive relay or whatever under his grandmother’s corpse in a shed outside of Longbridge. And he wants $350 for it.
So, when I decided to change my oil over the weekend, I wasn’t really confident I’d be able to just easily get an oil filter that fit. Sure, the Pao is just a Micra in a cooler suit, but we never got Micras here, either.
Incredibly, that didn’t matter! The part number I needed cross-referenced to some other tiny Nissan oil filter, and I got it from the local auto parts store just like I was buying a fuse for a Honda Civic. It was so dizzyingly easy—is this what it’s like for people who own common cars?
Changing the oil was no big deal. The tiny engine isn’t that cramped in the engine compartment, and accessing parts isn’t that terrible. The transmission is about the size of a healthy pumpkin, too.
In case you’re curious, a 987cc Nissan Pao takes just under three quarts of oil.
Sometimes you have to make an ugly fix that just works
One of the known issues with Paos is that the window rubber often shrinks, and getting new window rubber is next to impossible. My window rubber has shrank in many locations, leaving unsightly gaps that, even worse than being unsightly, can let water enter places where I’d much rather remained water-free.
I mean, I love water, don’t get me wrong, I’m practically made of, like 75 percent of the stuff, but it rains a lot here and rust is one of those things that makes me sob in my sleep, a little. So, I decided I needed to find a way to, if not replace the rubber, help it do its water-bouncer job.
So, I got some black gasket maker, and proceeded to fill in gaps in rubber window seals like a drunk and sloppy baker frosting a cake. I accomplished my goal, in that I plugged a number of alarming holes in the rubber seals, but all of them look like I used jet-black cream cheese to do it.
While I can’t say I’m actually happy with the results, I’m okay with it. The water is definitely kept out, and if you’re not looking at it all magnified like that photo there, you don’t really notice it. I know this would drive some people absolutely batshit, but, well, I guess I’m not one of those people.
Maybe one day I’ll get new rubber cut for these, but, for now, it works.
Things I still have to get done
My list of things I still need to do to the car isn’t huge, but they’re important. I still need new shocks up front, I need to change out all the vacuum lines in the car, and I need to re-wire my foglamps.
I think I’ll do the vacuum lines first, since that’ll make a big difference in how smoothly the engine idles, and may help the performance of the car under A/C loads, too. I just need to figure out where all those sneaky vacuum lines are.
The foglights are currently connected via the factory foglight switch, which someone had wired into the parking light circuit, which means I’m just tapping off those. I felt some of the wires getting hot, so I decided to disconnect them for now and do them up right, with a new switch and relay, since I don’t want to set my car on fire, as a general rule.
The struts I’ll probably order and have someone do, since I don’t have much experience with spring compressors, and I’m the sort of mechanic who just might end up kebabing himself on a improperly compressed spring.
It still makes everyone who sees it happy
Did I mention again that I adore this car? Because I do. It feels so damn good to be inside this charming little thing, puttering around. Really, the city should be paying me some sort of stipend, because nearly everyone who sees it go by turns and smiles, at least a little bit.
People always ask about it, they stop and take pictures, and the look on their faces as they do is one of slightly bemused wonder, a mix of mild confusion and amusement, a sort of reminder that the world still possesses things about which they may not have known, but have the capacity, somehow, to transfer happiness. I like causing that feeling by driving the Pao around.
I valeted the car for the first time when I drove it to a Volkswagen event in Durham, and the valet was genuinely excited to drive it. Just by going about my business, I managed to make someone’s day a little more interesting. That’s great!
Alternately, when I do encounter people who walk by the car and don’t give a second glance, I find myself becoming something of a jerk, at least in my inner monologue. What’s the matter with you people, I’ll wonder. Doesn’t anybody look around anymore? This isn’t some Prius, dummy!
That’s not fair of me. I gotta keep that shit in check.
Pao life is good.
If there’s a greater take-away here, it’s that I think it’s worth it to get yourself a car that you really like, deep in your gut, even if maybe it’s not the absolute most rational choice.
Sure, that’s a luxury maybe not everyone can afford at this moment, but it’s a worthwhile goal.
Oh, and speaking of affording, with gas prices rising, I should mention that I’ve never managed to put more than eight gallons into the Pao. And my range seems great. I think that 40+ MPG thing may actually be true!
I can’t wait to keep driving this thing.